Please note this issue is not available to purchase until March 23rd.
Written by: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art by: Brian Williamson
Publisher: Titan Comics
In terms of classic Doctors, Tom Baker’s portrayal of the fourth time lord is undoubtedly the most famous. The multicolored scarf is a sci-fi icon, up there with things like the Enterprise and the Death Star. It therefore makes total sense for Titan’s first foray into a classic doctor the man himself (for those wondering, I’m counting McGann as a modern doctor, considering they used his new look). The comic that follows is one heavily inspired by the gothic era of Who, in line with episodes such as The Talons of Weng-Chaing and The Brain of Morbius.
While this is my personal favorite era of the show, and while the comic has some definite highlights, Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1 is not a terribly stand-out fourth doctor story.
The story is set in Victorian London, a staple of the show in modern times, with The Doctor and Sarah enjoying a show. Sarah is soon kidnapped by a mysterious woman with monstrous henchmen, while the Doctor is introduced to a professor studying what he calls “Chronoaulogy”. The book is a little light on plot, mirroring much of the pacing elements of a classic doctor who episode, including the introduction of side characters and the main leads being split up allowing for different perspectives. However there’s just not enough room in the comic to allow the plot to develop. It captures quite a few elements of the show quite well, including a fantastic cliffhanger, though for the most part, the plot is a little thin, with a lot of intrigue yet not much to go on.
To be fair to it, it is the start of a five part story, so it’ll be a bit of a wait until we find out if it’s a story worth investing in.
What is handled brilliantly however is the tone of the whole thing. Williamson’s art captures a beautifully gothic take on the comic, fitting in well with the era of the show it’s set, and beautifully capturing the look of 70s television without the awkward rubber costumes (though honestly that would’ve been very much appreciated). Even better, Rennie and Beeby nail the quick wit and mood swings of the doctor perfectly. I audibly laughed quite a few times and was constantly captivated by the doctor’s strange mannerisms. If one thing is always consistent about these Titan licensed comics, they certainly pick writers who understand the material.
The whole package feels very much like a 70s Who story. If you’re a fan there are a ton of things to like that make it feel very authentic; it’s just a shame the central plot isn’t terribly thrilling right now. There are certainly interesting elements, but they need to come together later down the line.
Another thing that felt odd to me would occasionally be the faces of the doctor and Sarah. While the doctor settles into a natural look soon enough (I can almost see the swish of the scarf) Sarah’s facial expressions look a little too wooden. The faces almost look like they’ve been traced, giving an uncanny valley effect, as if her face never quite fits the scenario or she’s not really looking where she should be. It’s a little disappointing given how perfectly the art suits the rest of the book, so hopefully it can be smoothed out in future issues.
Overall, there’s definitely been a lot of care and attention put into this comic, though nothing right now that makes it stand out as a must-buy. For fans of classic Doctor Who episodes, it is encouraging to see Titan support the earlier series, making me hopeful they’ll do more mini-series like this (come on Colin Baker mini…). And there’s certainly a lot to like for these fans, though it’s a little early to tell how good this will be when the story reaches its conclusion.